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Updated 16 Feb, 2022 08:47am

IT freelancers reluctant to sign up with govt

ISLAMABAD: The Senate Standing Committee on Information Technology (IT) was told on Tuesday that despite significant benefits offered to freelancers, most of them were reluctant to get registered with the government.

Committee chairman Kauda Babar asked the IT ministry about facilities being provided to the freelancers by the government.

He said the freelancers independently executed IT projects for local and overseas clients, while working even from remote areas, and they were generating billions of rupees without any government support.

“Most of the freelancers were lower and middle-class youths, and a significant amount was remitted by them,” Senator Babar said.

Senate panel reviews the National Information Technology Board Act

Briefing the committee, IT Secretary Dr Sohail Rajput said that they were in constant touch with freelancers and other stakeholders and efforts were being made to resolve their problems.

“The process to register freelancers has started, and If they get registered, they will enjoy tax exemptions and other additional benefits, but due to lack of trust in the government functionaries freelancers have so far distanced themselves from the registration process,” he said.

Mr Rajput said: “We are trying to include these young people in the regular database through an awareness campaign informing them about the benefits of registration.”

The meeting was informed that the procedures for local payment systems and international financial transactions are being worked out with the State Bank of Pakistan to improve the process of financial transactions and remittances.

The committee members said the freelancers should be provided all possible help because they were the future of the nation and an asset for the economic growth.

The IT secretary informed the committee that various training programmes had been started in collaboration with the universities across the country to enhance the potential of the youths so that their capacity was further enhanced by preparing the graduates as per the requirements of the market.

The committee reviewed the National Information Technology Board (NITB) Act, 2022, already approved by the National Assembly, which has now been presented in the Senate.

The officials told the committee that the purpose of the proposed bill was to make the NITB an autonomous body so that the work of the institution can be further expedited and improved by removing obstacles.

They said that being a subsidiary, the NITB often faced financial issues, which was hurting the fast-growing IT sector.

Leader of the House in the Senate Dr Shahzad Waseem asked what would be the effect of NITB’s autonomous status and how it would benefit the country.

The officials responded that the NITB has been successfully providing quality IT services to the government including e-office, National Command and Operation Centre application and others.

The NITB was also working on human resource development, but before embarking on any project, one has to go through a long process to get Public Sector Development Programme grants which was not suitable for fast-moving field like IT.

The committee was informed that creating an autonomous body will eliminate unnecessary delays as well as improve the decision-making process.

The chairman of the committee directed that the proposed bill would be reviewed clause by clause in the next meeting of the committee.

The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority chairman briefed the committee about the government’s plan to sell new spectrum for 5G technology, which is intended to be launched in 2023.

Senators Sana Jamali, Shahadat Awan, Zeeshan Khanzada, Afananullah Khan, Palwasha Mohammad Zai Khan, Seemee Ezdi, Naseema Ehsan and Rubina Khalid also attended the meeting.

Published in Dawn, February 16th, 2022

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